In Nabukadogo Village, more than 30 kilometers from Labasa Town on Fiji’s main northern island, a local mother’s group is providing hot meals for the local preschool to help improve their children’s health.
The women drove this idea after awareness training was held in the community about the impact of food on their children and the benefits for their learning and education.
Nabukadogo Early Childhood Centre’s teacher, Tomasi Silinabaravi, explained this commitment has made a real difference on the attendance numbers and general health of his students.
He said, “mothers had been moved by the results of the screenings on the health of children and after their meeting, this idea (of cooking) came up. Children are also given fresh fruits now at 10am everyday.”
These changes are helping re-shape the types of food children consume and this is being seen on the ground. This change came about after Save the Children Fiji conducted a baseline survey in 11 Vanua Levu communities in November last year. These baseline survey’s were focused on understanding food consumption in these areas. The results of the research identified concerns in consumption with a significant portion of children found to be consuming black tea with high levels of sugar while 86% of children were found to drink soft drinks or ‘ready-to-mix’ drinks regularly. There was also a very low consumption of fruit and vegetables in these areas.
Letila Didramica, is a local mother from Nabukadogo Village and she said her daughter gets sick less and is now more active since the cooking program began at school.
“Through the lunch program I have noticed my daughter is getting healthier, less running nose and very active. She loves to attend school every day. She eats a lot of fruits and vegetables now and she likes coboi tea (lemongrass) more than black tea. She even wants to take fruits to school,” she said.
This change to coboi tea (lemongrass) that Mrs Didramica’s daughter has made plus the increase in fruits and vegetables at school are early signs of real community-led action and the children themselves are also involved in this change.
5-year-old Ilisapeci Nasavu told us her favourite foods are now pawpaw and cabbage. “I like the fruit and fish been added to my lunch. My mum gives me different food now, not like before, always same food,” she said.
Teacher Silinbaravi says some families are also making changes at home as the cooking has helped develop the way food is prepared at meal times.
“The individual families and community are very happy about this move and really support the mothers group because they’ve noticed the difference in the children. The families are also learning from this and try to improve their meals in the home,” he said.
Note: The awareness training that led to these changes are part of Save the Children Fiji’s Community Child Nutrition Project. This project targets 22 informal communities across the Northern and Central Divisions of Fiji and works to strengthen health networks and create platforms for community driven change. This project will run for a total of 22-months and is funded by the Fiji Community Development Program (FCDP)